venez avec moi en Provence: Peille
“D’où que l’on vienne et pour survive ensemble,
la culture est le lien indispensable.”
([Peille is] where one comes to survive together,
culture is the indispensable link)
Notre Village, Juillet 2010
by Roger Perruquetti
taken from Peille festival poster
One of the reasons I am drawn to France is that it is a place where tradition, manners, and history are respected and honored. Throughout France, down to the tiniest of villages, its inhabitants come together (usually annually) to celebrate the bounty of their region. These “fêtes or manifestations” range from apple picking and lobster trapping in the north to the harvest of jasmine, lemons, and lavender in the south. You will not find sponsored banners or advertisers promoting the events. These are local affairs. If there are 8” by 12” posters, they are designed and hung by the locals themselves.
Peille is a tiny village hidden in the meandering hills in the south of France, not far from the Italian border. It has about 2,000 residents. You will not hear about Peille in guidebooks or on Trip Advisor; which is why, in part, I write about it. It is a local treasure and for two days every August Peille hosts la Fête du blé et de la lavande (the celebration of wheat and lavender). This year will be the 40th la Fête du blé et de la lavande.
Peille is a collection of Medieval stone buildings connected by stone steps and pathways. Some of the buildings are from the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. La Fête du blé et de la lavande is a family affair and a perfect day trip. I only learned of it from my best friend’s mother who lives in a neighboring village. The first year we went was 2006.
The festival is priceless for children. Hands-on demonstrations give them an insight to traditions of the past, traditions which continue in Peille. They can practice separating the straw from the chaff and wheat while an ironsmith forges iron into various objects and women create delicately sewn handy-work. In costume, a band of four villagers walk throughout the paths and steps of the town filling it with music and stopping in the local crêpery/brassiere to accompany you as you enjoy freshly made (and very large) sugared crêpes. It is crowded, loud and filled with enthusiastic voices discussing the day.
The wheat that is procured that weekend is used for the bread for the following year’s festival. Small bundles of wheat are sold and rumored to bring you good fortune if you hang it in your home. We have collected these bundles for the last six years. I don’t know if they are responsible for the wonderful things in our lives, but I figure that it does not hurt.
At the entrance of the village, locals display their homemade treats and crafts. Of course there is no shortage of items using the lavender from the surrounding fields; including, lavender oil, lavender sachets, lavender honey, and fresh lavender bundles. I get my supply of lavender here each year as lavender is not limited to perfuming your linen closet or dresser drawers or to garnish dessert plates. In fact, lavender flowers and oil can be used in savory and sweet dishes: roasted rack of lamb or roasted poultry, lavender rice, lavender ice cream or yogurt, lavender tea cookies or cakes, lavender crème brûlee, fruit jam with lavender, chocolate with lavender, lavender lemonade or tea, et cetera, I think you get the idea.
In addition to lavender, there is homemade pâte de fruits (a jellied fruit paste coated with sugar and eaten in small squares) made from quince or the summer berries. It is the best I have every had and I stock up on that too. Homemade nougat (with almonds or lavender) that is neither too soft nor too hard, almond candy, hand embroidered linens, hand-woven baskets, the list goes on. The celebration of artisanship is sweet and it beckons us every year.
So if you happened to be in the southeast region of France in beginning of August and would like to venture off the beaten path (and you are not intimated by the curvy roads of these hanging villages),go to Peille and celebrate the bounty of wheat and lavender and grab a great for the road and some wheat and lavender for your home.
Vistez Peille et mangez bien.
For more information on Peille contact their tourism office at:
15 rue Centrale
(33) 04 93 82 14 40
pour Madame Broniewski avec amour